Brazil coach Tite has explained that joining in with his team’s celebrations against South Korea was not an act of disrespect to the opposition.
The Selecao ran out 4-1 winners against South Korea on Monday as they sealed their place in the World Cup quarter-finals in style.
Vinicius Junior opened the scoring before Neymar converted a penalty after a foul on Richarlison, who added a sublime third prior to Lucas Paqueta rounding off Brazil’s haul.
After Richarlison’s goal, which capped a superb move, Tite celebrated with the Tottenham forward by performing the ‘pigeon’ dance.
He was criticised by some sections of the media, but Tite has explained he meant no disrespect.
“We try to adapt to the athletes’ characteristics. They are young, I have to get closer to their language,” he said.
“One day we were training and I said to Richarlison ‘if you score a goal, I’ll dance’.
“I told the players to hide me a little, I know about the visibility.
“I didn’t want it to have any other interpretation than the joy of the goal, the result, the performance, but not disrespect for the opponent or Paulo Bento, who I have great respect for.”
With his goal, meanwhile, Neymar matched Pele and Ronaldo as the third Brazil player to score at three different World Cups.
The Paris Saint-Germain star is also just one short of matching Pele’s record goal haul of 77 for Brazil.
“Achieving marks is a great source of pride,” Neymar said.
“I reached numbers that I would never have imagined reaching, that’s always very good. It makes me very happy.”
Croatia stand between Brazil and a place in the last four.
Brazil have never lost in four previous meetings with Croatia, with this their first meeting since a 2-0 friendly win in June 2018.
Brazil are looking to reach the World Cup semi-final for the ninth time, with only Germany (12) doing so more often.
Croatia, runners-up in 2018, have reached at least the last four of the competition on both previous occasions they’ve made it out of the group stages (1998 and 2018).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brazil – Neymar
Neymar has been involved in 15 goals in his last 11 appearances for Brazil in all competitions (eight goals, seven assists), with each of his last six goals for the national side coming from the penalty spot.
Last time out against South Korea, he became the first Brazil player on record (since 1966) to both score and provide an assist at three different World Cup tournaments.
Croatia – Luka Modric
Real Madrid star Luka Modric was not on the pitch as Croatia progressed past Japan on penalties in the last 16, but if Zlatko Dalic’s team are to beat Brazil, the 37-year-old will surely be crucial.
He will go up against former Madrid club-mate Casemiro, and will need the assistance of Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, but if Modric can wield his influence, Croatia have a chance.
Croatia have lost four of their five World Cup games against South American sides, with the exception being a 3-0 win over Argentina in 2018. Two of those four defeats have been against Brazil – 1-0 in 2006 and 3-1 in 2014.
Despite getting to the final in Russia, Croatia have been handed only an 11.5 per chance of victory by Opta’s model, which has Brazil as the favourites with 68.2 per cent.
The draw is at 20.3 per cent.